If you have been to The Great Smoky Mountains in Eastern Tennessee, it is likely that you have made a trip around the loop known as Cades Cove. If you have not, it is a must see the next time you go there!
Just last week, Brian and I took our children to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg. We decided to take advantage of the great weather we were not expecting, and travel out to Cades Cove. It is about a 45 minute drive from Gatlinburg, but it is well worth it. The scenery along the way is beautiful. If you are up for a little bit of a hike on a paved path, check out the trail to Laurel Falls. It is a 1.3 mile hike back to the waterfall and takes about 2 hours to hike there and back. Laurel Falls information
Most of the drive to Cades Cove follows the Little River. We saw many Kayakers enjoying the fast waters and sunshine during our trip. We did see some of the damage left behind from the November wildfires, but it is amazing how hard it is to find with all the new growth coming up through the ashes. Amazingly, the Cades Cove loop was not at all effected by the wildfires that devastated the Smoky Mountains just four months ago. Once we arrived at Cades Cove, we decided to take the freedom top off the Jeep and enjoy the sunshine ourselves!
Our first stop was John Oliver's cabin. It is amazing to see how settlers built these cabins by hand and how they have survived for so many years. There was a volunteer on site telling the story of the Olivers and how they came to this area. He even had photos of the family.
The view, walking back to the car, took my breath away! The sky was so blue that day, and so much new green grass and leaves were coming out. Add those big, white, puffy clouds and you have a recipe for a great day! While walking back to the car, we found ourselves someone that was very curious about all of the visitors to the cabin. This little doe popped her head out of the brush to say hello to us. Then, just at the moment she was about to step out, a family came running up, loud as can be, to see what everyone had stopped to look at. Of course, with the noise they were making, she turned and ran into the forest. If you do happen to see people taking photos and hunkering down, there is probably some form of wildlife nearby. Please don't allow your children to run up to the group yelling and laughing. This was the best photo I could get of her before she ran away.
Our next stop was the Primitive Baptist Church. It is a little bit of a bumpy drive back to the church, but again, so worth it! It was Sunday when we visited the cove, and sure enough, there was a service being held. Not a scheduled service, just a man that was passionate about Christ and wanted to share the word with those that stepped inside this little bit of history. There were bibles in hands and laid upon the pulpit. We sat and listened to what the man had to say, for a little while. His voice bellowed through the area around the church. It was very powerful. If this man is not a preacher somewhere, he needs to be. His voice drew me in, his words made me want to stay and listen all day. However, I was not there alone and we had to move on. I wish I had taken a photo of this man, but felt that I should ask his permission first, and did not want to interrupt him.
The cemetery behind the church is the final resting place of John Oliver, whose cabin we first visited. It also holds the remains of many of the settlers that came to the Cove in the beginning. It also holds family members of those that first settled here. There were graves from as late as last year, showing the strong ties to the Cove many family members still have. Some markers were impossible to read. Some showed dates that revealed that infants were buried there. Many of the graves have had recent visitors who left behind fresh flowers.
After the church, we continued to drive along. I wanted to walk back to every structure and take in all the history, maybe another time. We did have children with us, and they do tend to get bored easy. We stopped to take in the scenery at a pull off just before the Cable Mill.
Our final stop was the Cable Mill. Yes, there are more structures to visit after the Mill, but as I said.....kids getting tired and wanted to go do fun kid stuff. The Mill is full of history. There is a visitor's center at the Mill, and of course, bathrooms! At the Visitor's Center, they had a table set up where we could taste locally made jams, preserves, and relish. They had corn meal and flour actually made at the mill! Other buildings on the property include the Gregg-Cable house, which was moved to the Cable Mill area after Becky Cable died in 1940. There is also a blacksmith's shop, a corn crib, and a couple of barns. The grist mill still works with the power of a water wheel. There was a volunteer inside the mill explaining the process, and even showing us what the corn meal and flour looks like after being crushed by the large stone wheel. They had bags of corn meal and flour made in the mill at the visitor's center. We ended up bringing home a couple preserves and a jar of hot pepper relish!
There is so much more to Cades Cove than what I have shown you here. Perhaps the next time my husband and I visit the area alone, we will make a day of the Cades Cove Loop and I will be able to share more of it with you.